Dr. Sheldon Greenfield
Dr. Sheldon Greenfield is busy this year helping to set priorities for federal healthcare research funding and build a UC School of Global Health. "We will be charting the course of clinical research and medical care in the U.S. for decades." Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications

If you made a list of three people having big years in 2009, it would have to include Barack Obama, Kate Winslet and Dr. Sheldon Greenfield.

Dr. who, you ask?  While he’s not quite a household name, Greenfield, the Donald Bren Professor of Medicine at UC Irvine, is making significant impact: He’s helping run a thriving campus research center, and he’s engaged in high-level decision making in California and Washington, D.C., with international implications for biomedical research and healthcare.

“It’s an exciting, busy time,” he says, “We’re beginning a process that will improve how doctors and patients work together to choose the best new treatments.”

In February, Greenfield was appointed co-chair of an Institute of Medicine committee tasked with allocating $400 million of the federal stimulus plan for research assessing the effectiveness of healthcare treatments and strategies. The Washington, D.C.-based panel will work with healthcare leaders to prioritize funding for clinical research on new drugs, devices, procedures, imaging, doctor-patient relationships and healthcare delivery systems. Its report, to be presented to Congress by June 30, will help influence long-term strategies for funding medical-related research, Greenfield says.

In addition, Greenfield continues to work with the San Francisco-based planning committee for the University of California School of Global Health, an ambitious systemwide effort to address worldwide health issues. This fall, he will chair another Institute of Medicine committee that will help establish new guidelines and standards for medical research.

Since coming to UCI in 2003 with his colleague and wife Sherrie Kaplan, Greenfield has devoted himself to improving medicine, from the way that clinical research is conducted to how healthcare is delivered to patients. He and Kaplan established the School of Medicine’s Center for Health Policy Research, which explores high-priority topics, from quality of care for treatment of chronic diseases to healthcare disparities in minority groups.

Greenfield and Kaplan also oversee their own vigorous research program. With more than $3 million in grant funding, they identify ways of improving clinical trials for new drugs and increasing diabetics’ participation in treatment decisions. And Greenfield still sees patients in his primary care practice at Gottschalk Medical Plaza.

“I’ll be spending a lot of time on airplanes this year,” Greenfield says, “but this is an important moment in history. We will be charting the course of clinical research and medical care in the U.S. for decades.

“I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of it.”